WELCOME! Once a month, usually on a Thursday evening, a group of writers, illustrators, teachers and librarians meets in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles to discuss children's books. Usually we talk about one picture book and one middle grade or YA novel. After the meeting, Sandy Schuckett, a retired LAUSD librarian, summarizes our discussion. Here are her reports of our thoughts about the books we have read. We'd love to have your comments too!
Thanks to Nancy Hayashi for our wonderful title art! Our group has been meeting since 2007. It was organized under the auspices of the Children's Literature Council of Southern California (CLCSC).

Thursday, July 2, 2015

THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt and I FEEL FIVE by Bethanie Murguia

We had a small group and an excellent discussion at our last meeting. We started with the novel, The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. We all thought the writing was quite phenomenal. One person said it was the 'best-written book' she had read since joining our group. Another said that although she basically loved the writing, Appelt's frequent use of the names of trees, animals, flowers, etc. in threes at the beginnings of many paragraphs became annoying. Another likened it to the flow of a river or a stream. Several of us thought it would be great to read aloud to a class, a few short chapters at a time. We also thought it had the rhythm of a Native American tale. We marveled at how the author was able to weave the plots of three different stories, including a 1000-year time difference, into this book. Several of us felt that Gar Face, the owner of the dog, Ranger, was just a despicable psychopath. We felt some of the descriptions of his actions were very difficult to read, and we wondered how kids might react to him. We agreed that some young readers might find him too hard to take for a variety of reasons. We also discussed the few black-and-white illustrations, and agreed that they didn't add much to the story -- except at the very end, where the silhouettes of the two cats and the dog were shown...happily' heading off into the sunset' after all of their travails. When all was said and done, we thought it was a quite amazing book.

As for the picture book, I Feel Five by Bethanie Murguia, we all liked it. We talked about birthdays, and whether one really feels different when that day is reached...even if it's a 'significant' birthday, like 15, 16, 21, 30, 50, etc. We agreed that for a little kid like the boy in the book there are huge expectations...especially on turning five and entering kindergarten. We liked the fact that the story began with his fourth birthday, and some of the same elements were repeated on his fifth, including the fact that he got ONE present! (Perhaps a message for many of today's overindulged kids?) We liked the ending when he felt 'bigger' after helping a friend get an apple from the tree. We felt it was a sweet story that little ones would enjoy, and we liked the illustrations also.

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